Here at the independently published Flo Feed, I strive to bring relatable tech content to the masses in whatever form I’m capable of producing without burning myself out (this is why you don’t see too many videos from me). And so I ask myself: how many people know about the Google Pixel 3a outside of my little bubble? I mean, yeah, it’s a great deal for $400. And yeah, the Night Sight feature has genuinely earned its bragging rights. But is it all compelling enough to sway people away from their comfortable iPhone-using lives?
I don’t think that’s who Google is targeting here. I think the Pixel 3a is going directly after Bad Androids—the ones that lag on security updates and leave you out of modern technology like wireless payments (“Apple Pay,” as my Starbucks barista calls it) or a decent camera. Granted, the $400 price tag of the Pixel 3a puts it in the middle of cheap Android phones and the Samsung phones breathlessly advertised on television. But for those who don’t want to spend too much and like the flavor of Android, this is it. This is truly it.
The Pixel 3a is the quintessential middle-class smartphone. It’s got all the pomp and circumstance of the expensive Pixel 3 (the tally is up to $1200 since I had to replace the screen), and it doesn’t skimp on the things that matter. It’s also a pretty cool phone, looks wise. The purplish color you see exhibited here is pleasing in person. I think the world would be a better place if all the tech looked this fun.
I worry a bit about what the Pixel 3a will feel six months from now after it’s been broken in and filled with apps and data. The Pixels have a problem, you know. Since I started buying them, I noticed Android slowing down to the point of embarrassing me about six months into owning it. It’s mortifying to have your friend say, “I thought you said your phone was faster than that.” Hopefully, the Pixel 3a doesn’t have this problem. Though if it does, maybe it becomes the justification for saving money on Google’s affordable series of phones.
What you should know
The Pixel 3a has all the stuff I love about my Pixel 3: it matches my aesthetic, it’s comfortable to use, it has Google Pay (that’s how I buy my Starbucks), and the camera is a fantastic performer. It has a headphone jack, so if you’re coming to this phone from the wired earbuds, you can continue living vintage. I like that this is a “Google phone,” because that means it’ll get software and security updates as soon as they’re available. The Pixel 3a is available unlocked, so you don’t have to buy it from your carrier, though Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile all offer it on subsidy.
The Pixel 3a excels at battery life. Whereas the pricier Pixel 3’s battery often needs a charge as early as 1 PM on some work days, the Pixel 3a purrs like a cat, taking naps when it’s not in use. It also helps that since you’re paying less for this phone, you’re also saving on some energy-sucking features, like a way-too-high resolution display.
How it takes photos
Perhaps the best thing about the Pixel 3a is that it takes photos just as well as the Pixel 3. Anyway, that’s Google’s end game, to get everyone to notice how its machine learning smarts can contribute to the best damn photo you’ve ever seen at a fraction of the price of other devices. It’s pretty wild that Google managed to pack the Night Sight ability into the Pixel 3a, despite not implementing the Pixel Visual Core.
Pixel 3a vs. Pixel 3
The following photos show the differences between the Night Sight feature on the Pixel 3a (left) and the Pixel 3 (right). Look at the details between objects. Notice the subtle coloring of the blue night sky is visible in both renders.
Unlike the Pixel 3, the Pixel 3a is not waterproof, so do not take it anywhere near a pool, a jacuzzi, or a wailing monsoon. Also, you might experience slightly longer loading times for some mobile games.
Don’t subsidize the phone through your carrier. Buy it outright if you can.